by William J. Stewart
Humans are creatures of rhythm and rhyme. Our lives are surrounded by sound and poetry; from the time we rise in the morning (alarm clock, perhaps a radio alarm) to the time we lay our head down at night (for young children, perhaps with a lullaby). Consider the radio at the doctor’s office, the mellow tune in the elevator, the birds chirping in the park, the familiar rhymes at nursery schools, the chiming bells from the clock in town square, the musical instruments of street entertainers. Everywhere around us, we find a beat or a time, and at times, some verse, lyrics or rhyme associated with it.
It is just another example of God’s great wisdom that songs are to be part of our worship. The apostle Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16; cf. Ephesians 5:19). A twofold purpose is served when God’s people blend their voices together in song. It is an activity by which God is to be glorified, just as any other portion of our worship. But more than this, it is an excellent teaching tool.
Recall when the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, Moses and Miriam led them in song (Exodus 15). One generation later, the LORD gave a song for Israel to teach their children, that it might be a witness against them when they turned from God (Deuteronomy 31:19-32:44). Deborah and Barak sang a song proclaiming praise to God for victory (Judges 5:1-31). David gave many songs to Israel, which addressed a variety of topics. Songs were of great importance to God’s people under the Old Covenant.
Friend, song should play a significant role in our worship. Singing is not just something we do to pass the time before the preacher gets up. It is an activity of equal value as any other commanded by God. It is the opportunity and responsibility of every child of God to participate, for each of us is commanded to “…teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs..” This being the case, we must be sure that our songs contain no error. It is a sober duty, even in song, to be a teacher of God’s word.
When we have the occasion to sing together as God’s people, let us do so with joyfulness and sobriety. Do not allow this God-ordained service to be like the drone of monotone monks. Neither permit it to resemble the frolics of a capering circus. May our aim as we sing always be “…for edification…” and our method always be “…decently and in order…” (1 Corinthians 14:26, 40), that God may be praised and men may be taught effectively.